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United States v. $23

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

June 19, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff.
v.
$23, 000.00 in U.S. CURRENCY. Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          DONALD C. NUGENT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court upon the Plaintiffs. United States of America's, ("United States"), Motion to Strike Claim and Answer for failing to Respond to Special Interrogatories. (ECF #21). Claimant, Robert Coore ("Claimant Coore"), timely filed a Response. (ECF #23). Also before this Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment on the Issue of Standing filed by Plaintiff, the United States (ECF #25). Claimant Coore filed a Response to the Motion for Summary Judgment, (ECF #27), and the United States filed a Reply Brief (ECF #28). Therefore, this matter is fully briefed and ripe for review.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY[1]

         This case originates as a civil in rem forfeiture complaint filed by the United States on August 26, 2016, against $23, 000.00 in U.S. Currency. (ECF #1). On February 24, 2016. Claimant Coore was at the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport as a ticketed passenger who paid cash for a one-way flight to Orange County, California. The Drug Enforcement Agency Cleveland Transportation Interdiction Group ("DEA"), received information that Taiwan Wiggins and Dalante Allison, both having previous felony drug convictions, had also paid cash for one-way tickets on the same flight.[2] DEA agents spoke to Claimant Coore, who provided false information about his identity, his employer and his reason for traveling. (See ECF #21, pp. 2-3). The DEA agents searched Claimant Coore and his belongings, and found $23, 000.00 in cash, which they seized. (Id.). Claimant Coore has since been deported. (See ECF #23. p. 2).

         On August 26. 2016. the United States filed a Complaint in Forfeiture pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 881(a)(6). alleging that the seized currency was subject to forfeiture "because it constitutes proceeds traceable to drug trafficking activities, and/or [was] used or intended to be used to facilitate drug trafficking in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a) and/or 846." (ECF #1. PageID 2).

         On September 27. 2016. Claimant Coore filed a Verified Claim asserting to be "the person who is the sole owner of these monies." (ECF #8. PageID 32). In October 2017, the United States challenged Claimant Coore's standing to pursue his claim by propounding upon him Special Interrogatories. Having received no response to the Special Interrogatories as of February 20TS, the United States filed its Motion to Strike. (ECF #21). The United States argued in its Motion to Strike that Claimant Coore's claim and answer should be stricken pursuant to Rule G(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure's Supplemental Rules for Admiralty or Maritime Claims and Civil Forfeiture Actions (the "Supplemental Rules"), which provides that "at any time before trial, the Government may move to strike a claim or answer for failing to comply with . .. [this Rule]. (ECF #21, pp. 5-8).

         On March 16. 2018. Claimant Coore responded to each Special Interrogatory with the following statement: "I wish to assert my Fifth Amendment Privilege not to answer.** (ECF #23-2).

         On April 9. 2018. the United States filed its Motion for Summary Judgment on the Issue of Standing, arguing that Claimant Coore has not met his burden of proving standing to present his claims as the sole owner of the seized monies. (ECF #25). Claimant Coore replied by stating that he does have standing, and that the United States has to prove it conducted a consensual search in order to prevail. (ECF #28) [3]

         For the reasons set forth herein, the United States" Motion to Strike (ECF #21) is DENIED as MOOT and the United States" Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF #25) is GRANTED.

         II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate when no genuine issues of material fact exist and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett. 477 U.S. 317. 322-23 (l986)(citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)). The burden of showing the absence of any genuine issue of material fact rests with the moving party:

[A] party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits." if any. which it believes demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.

Id. at 323.

         A fact is "material only if its resolution will affect the outcome of the lawsuit." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242. 248 (1986). Accordingly, the nonmoving part}' must present "significant probative evidence" to demonstrate that 'there is [more than] some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts/" Moore v. Philip Morris Cos., Inc.,8 F.3d 335. 340 (6th Cir. 1993). The nonmoving party may not simply rely on its pleading, but must "produce evidence that results in a conflict of ...


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